You already know to fill up all your big pots and your bathtub in preparation. But when a natural disaster actually strikes and you lose access to water from the mains, here are further steps to take.
1. Add bleach. Yes, the thing you use to clean toilets. If water might be standing for several days, chlorine should be added, even to normal tapwater. The state Department of Health recommends adding “one to eight drops of new, unscented liquid bleach with a strength of 5 to 6 percent (like Clorox)” for every gallon of standard tapwater. If you suspect it’s contaminated or compromised, keep adding Clorox drops until the water maintains a very slight chlorine odor 30 minutes after mixing.
2. Boil it. Boiling water for one to three minutes is a good alternative to Clorox, says the DOH. Don’t boil it too long – which can concentrate salts and minerals – but spending a little bit of time at 212 degrees F will kill bacteria and make tapwater safe for short-term use.
3. Store drinking water in a covered, clean, food-grade container. The DOH recommends 2-liter plastic drink bottles as good emergency water containers. Who knows, having a bunch on hand might save you from the annual Hurricane Prep Run, and the accompanying dozens of little water servings that will start to taste like plastic within a few months’ time.
4. Don’t drink from the bathtub. On its website, the DOH provides a rather graphic description of the “aerosols from every flush” that uncovered bathtub water will receive from a neighboring toilet. Drink treated water from covered containers where possible, and save bathtub water for other uses.